There are two ways of viewing and interpreting Valerie Bloom's interesting poem called, "The River".
The first manner is to look at it literary or at the surface or on its face as to what is a river naturally. The second way is to perceive it figuratively with a deeper meaning.
The Literal Meaning:
The river is a natural phenomenon and is a physical feature on earth. The genesis of a river is something like this. It forms originally after a heavy downpour. Water accumulated at the top of a hill, mountain or steep uplands. The accumulated water become a force and cuts its way down the highland.
As it is strong, it will cut deeply into rocks and wash away soil debris and whatever that is uprooted on its way. These are used as 'tools' for it to cut its path downwards.It moves from the source to the mouth unstopped, across valleys and hills, twisting and turning around rocks that it cannot cut through. The heavy load that it carries sinks to the bottom of its bed.
Across the lowlands, it gurgles as if in a happy mood. At waterfalls and rapids it swirls and 'dances' and the roar is heard as a 'song' to the countryside in the vicinity. Yest, for all the happy sounds it makes, it can be a monster when it floods. Its raging water can destroy and kill whatever is in its way be it man, animal or plant.
The Figurative Meaning:
This is more a symbolic comparison with the life of man. The life of a man is like that of a river. At certain parts of his life, he wanders about. This is normally so in his restless youth period. He may want to see the world. He may jump from job to job. As such he is nomadic, a traveler and a wanderer. Like a tramp, he refuses to make home permanently at any one place or even sit at one job long enough to see some promotion and growth. He makes his own decision and move as his fancy takes him.
On his travels, men will collect the 'souvenirs' of his life. We call these experiences. Man can be child-like when he is happy to bask in the sunshine of Mother Earth. He shows this in sheer joy and abandonment such as in singing and in dancing when he achieves something his heart desires. His happiness radiates to those all around him, be it relatives or friends.
However, like the river, man is also subjected to moods and bouts of unhappiness that can unleash uncontrolled anger and violence.This can include the frustration of failure. When that happens, his senses may leave him and he will destroy and kill to relieve himself of pain and sorrow or to get whatever he wants, be it by fair means or foul.